What are stations?
Teaching with stations is not a new or revolutionary concept. It’s actually a common classroom practice used by teachers in the youth sector. There are many different models for setting up stations but the basic gist is that students rotate through different “learning stations” during a class.
Stations can allow teachers to interact with small groups of students while keeping the others on task. First and foremost, it is a classroom management strategy that allows for differentiation, better use of technology, and close monitoring of student progress, regardless of class size or subject. The best part? Little has to change in order to get started.
Why use stations?
Organizing your classroom into learning stations is a simple modification that can reap many benefits. The way to get the most benefit though, is to ensure that there is a teacher station amongst the stations in your room. That way you are guaranteed to have valuable contact with each of your students during each of your classes.
Small group instruction is somewhat magical. When we teach to a large group, it is difficult to gauge understanding and engagement. When we work with small groups at a time we can ensure that we are reaching them all.
See why Emile Bowles, history teacher at Nova Career Centre, New Frontiers School Board in Chateauguay, Quebec started to use stations:
For more on Emilie's experience with stations, including her ideas about building community and formative assessment: Emilie's YouTube Playlist
See why Lindsay Harrar, teacher at ACCESS, Riverside School Board in St Lambert, Quebec started to use stations in her Literacy classroom:
Differentiation + Multi-level teaching: We can tailor our lessons to each group in front of us.
Formative Assessment: We can ask specific questions and give immediate feedback to our students to help improve understanding.
Technology Integration: We often want to use technology but aren't sure how to facilitate this in a way that makes sense. We may want to use video to teach content but...when? Having a technology station facilitates the teaching of content through video while knowing that students will be able to clarify their understanding with the teacher later in the day. A technology station can also be a great place to work on digital storytelling or other projects.
Attendance: When learners know that they will be working closely with their teacher they are less likely to be absent.
Classroom Community: As we spend more quality time with our students we are able to deepen our relationship around learning, which leads to richer learning experiences. Read how Catlyn Tucker uses stations to create greater classroom community: http://bit.ly/TuckerStations
Education Reform: Quebec's educational programs are based on a student-centered approach to developing competencies. Stations can help to reinforce this by allowing for multiple ways of working towards mastery. When we can connect with small groups of learners at a teacher station, we can ensure that we have a handle on all of our students' learning in a very manageable way.
Read this article (en français) by a teacher who uses stations in her secondary fsl classroom in Ontario. It covers many of the points described above:
Les Centres d'apprentissage par Patricia Munante, OCDSB.
What does it look like in the classroom?
If you want to see what a stations approach to learning looks like in an adult education classroom, here is a glimpse into Lindsay's literacy classroom. You can see how she incorporates a blended approach to learning that integrates small group instruction, meaningful use of the interactive white board, conversation-based learning, individualized activities, and the use of video for content attainment.
See how Lindsay Harrar's students navigate through the stations in her Literacy classroom:
To go further: Read Avi Spector's blog post about Lindsay's classroom, including some of her planning notes: http://trpd.ca/AviLindsayStations
Teacher (and student!) Testimonials
What does it look like for PD?
The CCBE and DBE programs talk about competency-development and student-centered learning. So doesn't it make sense to use the same approach for teacher professional development?
There are many models of stations that can be used. No matter the model, the underlying rationale is the same - teacher-centred professional development that offers choice, conversation, and meaningful, embedded use of technology as we develop our professional competencies in teaching.
Teachers working in a station-rotation model at AQIFGA 2016
Stations à la carte allow participants to choose where they want to work and how long they want to stay in each station, this was used at a Provincial PD day about formative assessment in Adult Education in 2016.
Read more about how small group conversations and stations have been used in teacher professional development in Quebec. This article includes resources to help you organize your own Stations PD or to use Stations in your classroom:
Contact us if you would like to talk more about this or any other idea!
Learning resources created by Emilie Bowles (Teacher, NFSB), Lindsay Harrar (Teacher, RSB), Hilda Smolash (Teacher, EMSB), Avi Spector (RECIT consultant, RSB), and Tracy Rosen (RECIT consultant, CSSMI), 2016.